/ unbroken / Kit Swartz

Not Unbroken

“Unbroken” is a powerful movie about the amazing fortitude of the human spirit under vicious and relentless abuse.  The background of Louis Zamperini’s athletic gifts and driving ambition is carefully laid out in the movie.  It reveals attributes that enabled him to endure this crushing persecution.  All this leaves the viewer with an uplifting model of integrity and courage.  But it also leaves you with a sense of humiliation under your own failures.

The book by the same title continues where the movie ends, recounting the struggles Mr. Zamperini had when the war ended and he returned to his home in California.  The same anger and bitterness that sustained him, unbroken, against the horrors of war and captivity were now breaking him.  His brokenness was evident in alcoholism and the mistreatment of his wife.  Louis Zamperini was not unbroken now!  Where the brutal sins of others against him did not break him, his own sins against himself and others did.  Then, as the book relates, he heard about forgiveness and restoration through faith in Jesus Christ and was rescued from his brokenness.  He openly and happily testified to all these things throughout the remainder of his life.  His wartime heroics cannot be understood, ultimately and rightly, apart from his sorrows and joys after the war.

There was much debate about why the movie did not include the story of his postwar life.  Some think that an anti-Christian prejudice is the reason.  But it is worth considering whether portraying conversions on screen is beyond the capacity of most audiences to comprehend as a real event.  Also, the point of the movie was to tell the story of an unbroken human spirit.  The rest of the story is about human brokenness and divine restoration in the very same person who had been unbroken.  All this is probably too much to attempt in a single major motion picture.

The story of Louis Zamperini’s conversion requires an audience to have a certain level of spiritual insight in order to understand and appreciate it.  Such insight is a gift from God, not a natural ability or human achievement.  3D movies require special glasses for the eyes.  The rest of Louis Zamperini’s story requires special glasses for the spirit.  This insight is a gift from God and prayer is the primary means to obtain it.  Ask and you will receive. 

Louis Zamperini asked for restoration from his brokenness.  He asked for the forgiveness of his sins and the gift of Christ’s righteousness.  And Louis Zamperini received this wholeness that he asked for.  And so can you.  Ask and you will receive.

Kit Swartz, Pastor Emeritus RPC Oswego, NY